A HAULAGE worker who killed his secret lover's husband has told a jury that he is "devastated for him and his family" and did not mean to cause his death.

Cohnor Coleman, 24, is accused of attacking Andrew Jackson, 43, "like a cage fighter" when the two men came face-to-face on a night out in April.

Coleman was having an affair with Mr Jackson's 38-year-old wife Sarah - who he used to babysit for and who was one of the best friends of his mother.

The prosecution claims that he saw former golf club pro Mr Jackson as "an obstacle to the relationship" and murdered him in Richmond town centre.

The Northern Echo: Andrew Jackson, who Cohnor Coleman is accused of murdering

Coleman, of Cookson Way, in nearby Brough with St Giles, insisted he had never had a problem in the past with his love rival and there was no animosity.

He told Teesside Crown Court how the Jacksons were neighbours, he had known them for many years, and he had always got on well with Mr Jackson.

Answering questions from his QC Cairns Nelson, Coleman said he and mother-of-two Mrs Jackson made plans to live together - and he thought she was divorced.

He said he had had "a secret crush" on her from his childhood, and they got closer when she joined him and his mother at their weekly badminton bookings.

"It started as friendly banter, but it turned into flirty bonding," he said. "We ended up going to play badminton during the week and the bond just grew."

Coleman told the jury of seven men and five women that he worked as a shot-blaster and spray-painter for a haulage firm in Leyburn, North Yorkshire.

After leaving home at 17 and studying in South Tyneside, he worked as a home help for the elderly in Hebburn for three years before moving back home.

He worked in a care home in Northallerton before getting his job with the haulage company, and had a girlfriend himself at the time of the affair.

Coleman said of Mrs Jackson: "I fell for the woman. I was serious about her. She told me that I was hers and that she was mine, that I was her partner.

"Every time we had a bit of spare time, we tried to meet up with each other . . . she told me they were divorced and going their separate ways."

The Northern Echo: Sarah Jackson, who was having an affair with Cohnor Coleman

The court has heard that the Jacksons twice separated, but despite having a flat in Richmond, the deceased spent most of his time with the family.

Mrs Jackson had a number of affairs and was forgiven after each one, but her fling with Coleman - although suspected by her husband - was never admitted.

A week before the killing, Mr Jackson branded Coleman "irresponsible and childish" for the way he had behaved towards his mother and girlfriend.

On a night out, he punched a pillar in a music bar then attacked a wooden door with his fists, elbows and knees because Mrs Jackson kissed another man.

Coleman denied losing his temper - or being angry the following week when Mrs Jackson was with a different man - and said he was always calm.

Prosecutor Paul Mitchell put to him under cross-examination: "At the heart of this whole case is that she had made you look a mug, look an idiot."

Coleman answered: "I was upset with the woman. She told me I was her partner. I thought the woman was being true to me . . . she pulled the wool over my eyes."

Mr Mitchell said Coleman had left the Cavern in a rage after being belittled and humiliated, and took it out on Mr Jackson when he saw him.

The defendant, who has admitted manslaughter, accepted being responsible for the death but denies intending to cause "really serious harm".

He told the court yesterday that he was acting in self-defence after he was followed into the street by Mr Jackson towards the Georgian Theatre Royal.

He claimed the lorry driver "came straight at me" and put his hands in his face, felt as though he was being pushed and pulled, and punched out.

Coleman said his recollection of the clash is "sketchy and blurry images" but his apparent memory loss was described as "very convenient" by Mr Mitchell.

Dressed in a light grey suit, white shirt and blue striped tie, he told the jury: "I didn't remember what I had done. I don't remember carrying out the attack."

Mr Mitchell said to him: "Any suggestion that Andrew Jackson approached you with aggressive intent is complete nonsense. None of this happened, did it?

"Any suggestion that that man put his hands on you in any way is a complete invention." Coleman replied: "I remember his hands on my face."

Mr Jackson never regained consciousness and died in hospital two days after the assault from a catastrophic bleed on the brain after being kept alive on a ventilator.

Witnesses have told the jury that they saw Coleman standing over him as he was motionless and defenceless on the ground, delivering at least five blows.

Mr Nelson said during his closing speech to the jury: "Cohnor Coleman killed Andrew Jackson. He will have to live with the consequences of what he did.

"This case is not about whether what happened in that doorway is somehow justifiable - no, Cohnor Coleman is a killer. The question is what sort of killer.

"It is a terrible crime and a terrible crime whether it is murder or manslaughter. This trial is not about whether there is anything right, lawful, proper about any of his actions in that doorway.

"Either way, he will be convicted by you of grave offence of homicide.

"It is not, this case, about who, between Andrew Jackson and Cohnor Coleman, was the better man. If that were the issue, I would be wasting my time."

During his evidence, Coleman said he was embarrassed about punching the pillar and doors at the club, and accepted being told off by Mr Jackson calmly.

He denied saying he wanted to knock him out, and told the jury: "I had no issues with him. I never had a problem with the man. There was no animosity."

Asked by Mr Nelson how he felt about his death, Coleman wept in the witness box as he relied: "I was devastated for Andrew. I was devastated for his family."

The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict tomorrow once Judge Simon Bourne-Arton. QC, has completed his summing up.